three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
By: 
Amy Chua
user_rating: 
0

A-Battle HymnAmy Chua is the John M. Duff Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She has written two previous books, How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2002), which was a New York Times best seller, and Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall (2007).

The Topic: "Chinese parenting is incredibly lonely--at least if you're trying to do it in the West, where you're on your own," Chua writes. "You have to go up against an entire value system--rooted in the Enlightenment, individual autonomy, child development theory and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Chua documents the trials and triumphs of "Chinese Mother" parenting: endless hours of piano practice, no play dates, no sleepovers, no TV, and no grades lower than As allowed. She passionately believes in hard work and no play, and she does not balk at calling her daughter "garbage," paradoxically because she is supremely confident of her daughters' abilities. The triumphs are obvious. Her daughters are straight-A students, and her eldest, Sophia, performed at Carnegie Hall at age 14. The trials, including the rebellion of her younger daughter Louisa, leave Chua humbled yet undefeated in spirit for more battles to come.
Penguin. 237 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781594202841

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"In spite of her charming glibness, her self-effacing confessions, her guffaw-inducing rants, Chua's jaw-dropping methods (even to a fellow Asian mother) are often of the ‘don't try this at home' variety: rejecting hurriedly handmade birthday cards, insisting she deserves better; ‘bloodbath practice sessions' ... even humiliating her daughters to force them to present pitch-perfect tributes at their beloved grandmother's funeral." Terry Hong

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Her sweeping statements do begin to pall after a while, but what saves Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and makes Ms. Chua ultimately an endearing presence, is her ability to be candid about her excesses and poke fun at herself." Claire McHugh

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua's struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. ... Unfortunately, the author leaves many questions unanswered as her book limps to a conclusion." Elizabeth Chang

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"Her writing is smart and lively, but while she strives for self-deprecation, her fights with her children can be downright uncomfortable to read." Sara Vilkomerson

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"A diabolically well-packaged, highly readable screed ostensibly about the art of obsessive parenting. In truth, Ms. Chua's memoir is about one little narcissist's book-length search for happiness." Janet Maslin

Telegraph (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"Reading of her crazed tantrums and manic perfectionism, few would wish to be one of her children. ... Curiously, however ... her children seem to be loyal. Perhaps that's because Chua, for all her faults, has a sense of humour and an ability to analyse." Cassandra Jardine

USA Today 2 of 5 Stars
"Alas, Chua's actual book is not a guide to, say, raising your very own Intel science prize winner even though you, like Chua, have a full-time job. ... Instead, Tiger is yet another tepid memoir detailing the conflicts Chua feels as a Harvard-educated working mommy." Deirdre Donahue

Critical Summary

Most critics agreed that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an entertaining read--lively and humorous, written with the intent to shock. More controversial is Chua's stereotyping of Chinese and Western cultures, not to mention her authoritarian parenting methods. Critics judged the book largely by asking the following questions: Should self-esteem come before accomplishment, or accomplishment before self-esteem? If the latter, should it be achieved by threats and constant monitoring? Chua's teenage daughters are undeniably accomplished, but at what emotional cost? While some reviewers found that Chua's technique borders on abuse and her writing was, at best, self-serving, others were impressed by her parenting results and opined that the West could learn a few things from this remarkably driven Chinese American mother.